Newscast for Friday, February, 4, 2011

  • Unprecedented numbers demonstrate in Egypt as international pressure on the regime builds
  • Egyptian blogger describes the Mubarak regime’s campaign of violence and intimidation
  • Activists link a US technology firm to the repression in Egypt
  • Somalia’s worsening humanitarian crisis of drought and attacks from the insurgency
  • Ivory Coast refugees flee to Liberia to escape their political crisis

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Republicans withdraw attempt to redefine rape
Republican efforts to deny rape victims federally supported abortion services have been knocked back, after sponsors of the controversial HR3 changed some of the most restrictive language.  Currently there are exemptions for bans on federal funding for rape and incest. But HR3, the so-called “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” changed that language to read for “forcible rape or, if a minor, and act of incest.”  This change could exclude rapes where women are unconscious, coerced, drugged, or in instances of statutory rape.

GOP leadership now says it will drop the word “forcible” from the bill, but pro-choice advocates are still concerned that the legislation will make the Hyde Amendment permanent. Hyde first banned the use of federal dollars to fund abortions in 1976. Since then, Congress has had to renew it each year.

VA Planned Parenthood denies wrongdoing in “sting” tape
Planned Parenthood is one organization whose federal funding is at risk if HR3 passes. In recent weeks, the pro-life group Live Action released controversial secretly recorded video of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Perth, New Jersey. Yesterday the conservative group released another video, this time from Virginia. But Planned Parenthood of Virginia responded today, saying the heavily edited video does not prove anything. Brad Kutner has the story from Richmond.

With members acting as a pimp and an under-aged prostitute, Live Action’s goal was to expose Planned Parenthood as aiding and abetting the sex-trade of minors. But Courtney Jones, Manager of Grassroots Organizing for the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood, said they did nothing wrong.

“In Virginia, minors can seek information about contraception and STI testing in a confidential setting and that’s what occurred.”

According to Jones, it wasn’t until the end of the meeting that the Live Action activists admitted to being in the sex trade and that some of their workers were minors.  Following the organization’s protocol, the Planned Parenthood employee contacted her supervisor, local police, and the FBI after the incident.

According to Virginia Law, it is illegal to secretly record someone if they have a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” as is the case of a confidential medical meeting. Brad Kutner, FSRN, Richmond.

Rights group criticizes Gitmo policies in wake of detainee death
US Officials at the Guantanamo detention center say that 48-year-old suspected Taliban commander Awal Gul has died of an apparent heart attack.  Gul had been held at Guantanamo since 2001, but never charged with any crimes.  In a statement, the Center for Constitutional Rights said Gul’s death illustrates what the facility has become – quote –“a prison where Muslim men are held indefinitely until they die because the president lacks political courage to release or charge them in any forum.”

Unemployment rate sinks to 9%
New unemployment numbers show that the US rate dropped to 9% in January, the lowest rate in nearly two years.  The alternative unemployment number, which includes those who have stopped looking for work and those working part-time but want full time work, was 16.1% in January.  That rate has dropped one full percent since September of 2010.

Protest planned to raise awareness of human trafficking around Super Bowl
And finally, child welfare organizers are planning a rally to raise awareness of the problem of human trafficking around this weekend’s Super Bowl.

“This year the Super Bowl is in Dallas-Ft. Worth, a leading hub for sex trafficking.  Fifteen percent of all calls to the national hotline come from this area.  Research shows that a major sporting event such as this can increase the demand for sexual trafficking by up to 80%.”

The Texas-based group Traffick911 is organizing Saturday’s protest.  Activists and law enforcement cite annual spikes in underage sex trafficking before the Super Bowl.  They suspect thousands of girls will be trafficked around this year’s game.



Unprecedented numbers demonstrate in Egypt as international pressure on the regime builds
“Day of Departure” demonstrations in Egypt today drew unprecedented crowds in numerous cities, with anti-government protesters continuing their call for President Mubarak to immediately step down. More than a million came out in Cairo, an estimated half million in both Mansoura and Alexandria, and tens of thousands in Suez, Port Said, Aswan and other cities. Cheering, singing and dancing took place in many places throughout the day. This follows the violent crackdown over the last few days in which dozens of demonstrators, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists were beaten and detained. Al Jazeera’s offices were attacked and equipment set ablaze, but the network continues to broadcast live images around the clock. A Swedish TV journalist and a Greek newspaper reporter were both stabbed and hospitalized. And lawyers from the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, along with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch staff were taken by police to an unknown location. As of airtime, their whereabouts and safety had not been confirmed. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, today called for the immediate release of all local and international journalists and human rights defenders.

“Egypt must implement its international human rights obligations and prevent further violence. Protestors must be properly protected, including from each other. The security and intelligence forces must be held accountable. Change is coming to Egypt, as it came to Tunisia, but the violence and bloodshed must stop now. Governments should listen to their people, and start addressing their human rights deficits immediately. We now see there is an intense hunger for human rights in the Middle East and North Africa – and of course in other countries in other regions. Governments, who ignore these extremely loud and clear warning signals, are doing so at their own peril.”

US officials also condemned the repression and according to unnamed sources who spoke to the New York Times, the Obama administration is talking to Egyptian officials about a plan for Mubarak to turn over power immediately. If he does step down, he may have at least one place to go. Media reports from the tiny European country of Montenegro say the country could provide asylum for Mubarak.

Egyptian blogger describes the Mubarak regime’s campaign of violence and intimidation
For more on what’s happening in the streets of Egypt, we turn to blogger Zeinobia, who writes at She’s been taking part in the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and keeping the outside world updated through messages, photos, and video posted to Twitter.

Activists link a US technology firm to the repression in Egypt
The media reform and advocacy group Free Press, says it’s uncovered a link between the California based technology company Narus and Egyptian government repression. Free Press alleges that Narus, owned by weapons manufacturer Boeing, sells equipment that allows the Egyptian regime to track internet activity. They’re also investigating about a dozen other western technology firms for possible links to authoritarian regimes, including Cisco Communications and Sandvine in Canada. We spoke to Free Press Campaign Director Tim Karr.

Somalia’s worsening humanitarian crisis of drought and attacks from the insurgency
And now we turn to Somalia where the Transitional Federal Government voted Thursday to extend its mandate by three years. Somalia was supposed to hold elections and vote on a new constitution later this year, but the extension indicates that will be delayed. The renewed mandate was slammed by the US and UN which, along with African Union troops, are propping up the transitional government. Somalia’s capital, much of which is controlled by militants, is often the scene of violence. Earlier this week, dozens were injured and 15 people killed. Adrian Edwards is a spokesperson with the United Nations.

“This was the worst incident in Mogadishu so far this year, although sadly the Somali capital is no stranger to indiscriminate violence. Last year hundreds of Somalis were killed. According to available UN figures, at least 7,600 people reported weapons-related injuries in Mogadishu – an average of more than 20 wounded a day, and making this the worst year in a decade for civilian casualties. One in five of those injured was a child. The Somali capital is without doubt one of the most deadly cities anywhere.”

According to the UN, one and a half million civilians are displaced inside the country and an estimated 600,000 have fled the country. The country is also experiencing its worst drought in years, and the number of people without adequate food and water is growing. FSRN’S Mohammed Yusuf has more on the humanitarian situation.

Ivory Coast refugees flee to Liberia to escape their political crisis
Another humanitarian crisis is developing in Liberia, where thousands of people from Ivory Coast have fled because of the ongoing presidential political crisis in their own country. Most are women and children. UN Radio’s Jocelyne Sambira reports.

And, the Transportation Security Administration has given its employees the okay to unionize, ending their years-long battle for collective bargaining rights. The union will be able to negotiate on issues like working conditions, but not compensation and proficiency testing. It would potentially represent TSA employees at 450 airports across the US. FSRN will pick up coverage of this breaking story on Monday.

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